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Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)
It’s an exclusive club, the PPOY (for the uninitiated, that’s the Perennial Plant of the Year awarded by professional horticulturists at the Perennial Plant Association). Husker Red beardtongue won the distinction in 1996 and has been a solid performer in the landscape ever since. This cultivar was developed at the University of Nebraska from a species native to the eastern half of the US. The native beardtongue is commonly seen on roadsides and other open areas that are not too wet.
This sturdy perennial plant was selected and named for its maroon-colored foliage…and Nebraska heritage. It is a plant for areas with good drainage. Sitting in full sun encourages strong leaf color and more extensive flowering. While the stalks of pink-tinted white flowers rise to over two feet in the spring, the plant remains compact at little more than half that height. The foliage is nearly evergreen and maintenance is easy – shear the flower stems off just above the foliage to encourage some additional flowering in the summer. Plants are also easy to manage because of their slow spread. Flowers are attractive to birds and butterflies and also make good cuts.
We have Husker Red beardtongue on either side of the entrance drive to the Community Center (across from the library). Plants have been there since 2008 on unirrigated native soil without deer protection.
From turf grass to tall trees, the most critical factor in the success of any landscape project is plant selection. Right Plant – Right Place!!!
All woody evergreens, but especially the broadleaf types, are best planted in the spring.
Any lawn planting or restoration projects that involve sowing seed are best done in the fall with mid-September to mid-October as a good window.